I remember having a conversation with April 5K a while back about the music scene. Her basic premise was that there has been a sea change in the scene with an old wave is finding itself pushed out by a new wave of kids and a lot of the grumbling about “The Scene” had to do with an old guard not willing to recognize or accept what was overtaking them. I think to some extent April had it pegged. Nowhere was this sea change more apparent than at Indie Houston’s hugely successful New Year’s Eve party. You want to know where the kids are? You want to see DIY? You want to see community and celebration? This was the place. For all you old old old schoolers out there let me just say – remember Lexington? You remember the parties we’d go to on that street? OK Imagine that vibe. It was there – alive and well. Bands playing great music, people having fun, and sharing hugs; you know one big happy family. From beginning to end it was the best way to ring in 2009 you could possibly imagine.
I missed openers Ghormeh Sabzi but arrived to catch Galveston’s Darwin’s Finches who apparently come with their own dancing neo-hippie fans. Kicking-off with a song that cops a Stooges riff is not a bad opening gambit and the flailing abrasive guitar work of Justino Saladino grabbed you by the collar and shook you to the core all night. As performers, they understood how to dig into that primeval cromag thing that made you whip out that Dio devil sign and when the material matched the performance it was earth shattering. One song…something about a party. Holy Rob Tyner! Justino’s nervous stuttering phrasing on that song killed!!! Seriously, the energy of the performance and the primal rock and roll power coming off the stage felt like the band was channeling the MC5 in all its glory. That’s not to say that every song pegged it to that level but, for the most part, I can see why people have been bandying their name about – here’s serious island rock and roll.
Next came The Tontons whose set was probably one of the best I’ve seen them do. Being the focal point of any band is no easy chore and you have to give it up to frontwoman Asli Omar (whose vocals are singular in the scene) for channeling the music like a jazzy priestess when she sings. But the wonderful thing about the Tontons is it’s not a one woman show – the rest of the band is phenomenal. I generally rave about guitarist Adam Martinez channeling Hedrix but this time I was on bassist Tom Nguyen’s side and, man, that dude can rip like no man’s business. There’s this Bossa Nova song they do, which I never particularly cared for, but they completely tore that one up on Wednesday and when Tom started getting all Geddy Lee on the bass I wanted to shout “You bastard! Stop, I don’t like that song dammit!” and then concede that they were just too hot to let any song not come across as anything less than stellar.
So here you have a band red hot on new year’s eve and what do they do after their set? Do a video shoot. A little backstory first – they were scheduled to do a video shoot from 7-9pm but for reasons unknown they didn’t do it at that time and just got bumped up to third on the bill. That’s fine; nobody was complaining. I sure wasn’t as I would have missed them perform had they started early and I was loving the film crew’s lighting (great for taking pictures) but here is the problem – I don’t care to see the Tontons lip-sync. I’m sure the results are great but, given the brilliance of their live performances, it’s horribly dull stuff to sit through. It’s kind of like driving a car over 100 mph only to then find yourself in a 5mph school zone. You guys have fun; I’m gonna refill my beer.
Riff Tiffs eased the party back into gear. I’ll admit it was weird seeing Tom Nguyen filling in for Althea Topek on bass but he didn’t miss a step and within no time that thought was put the background. Pausing the set, IH’s Robert Delossantos, counted down to the New Year and the night continued with hugs, kisses, fireworks, and the Riff Tiffs which made you hopeful for 2009. What can I really say but what better way to hear Houston’s best shoegazers‘ jangly and atmospheric guitars than framed by swaying trees under the shimmer of stars on a chilly New Year’s Eve.
Scheduled next were The Mathletes, but as they set-up we got a treat – Fat Tony commandeered the stage. It was as if he looked around at people just standing there chatting and having a good time and thought “No, no, people! This will not do! This is a party! This is serious business!” So, holding a jug of wine in his hand, he strutted on stage and barraged us with rhymes until people were talking this party thing seriously. Standing? Unacceptable! Chatting? Unacceptable! Dancing! Yes, now you’re with the program! So, ladies and gentlemen if you are going to crash a party, take a lesson from Fat Tony!
After the Fat Tony power-up, it was time for The Mathletes to carry the torch and they did not miss a beat. Opening with Pavement’s “Summer Babe” they stubbornly refused to accept any beat that was not up-tempo. You in the front dance! Joe Mathlete commands it! He will sing Pinnochibot and, yes, I liked it when the horns better for the coda too but dance dammit! Actually that was the only song where I missed the huge Mathletes full-on ensemble. Other than that one song, the smaller and more stable Mathletes were no less about pounding your skull into a joyful, happy, melodic bliss than the Mathletes of old. They sing, you dance – it’s the natural order.
Unfortunately, right after the Mathletes set, the cops came in around 12:48am and closed down the outdoor stage. Someone seemed worried worried about the cops hassling people but I shrugged it off; If you have an a-hole cop shutting down a show, you’re gonna know immediately – when the cops come in and all chill and have a look that says “sorry to ruin the party” odds are they aren’t there to mess with people. As it turned out moving things indoors seemed to have worked in Giant Princess’ favor anyhow. The party was moved indoors and what you got you got was all this energy confined to a small room and Giant Princess feeding off this like some crazy sci-fi energy monster. Hands down, Giant Princess was the highlight of the evening. With drums raging, the keyboards oscillating, the bass thumping, and Colin looking like he was possessed by some demon, holy shit it was like a Rock ‘n’ Roll tent revival. Seriously, it was like the insane energy of a hardcore show but with an Indie Rock band instead. People atop people’s shoulders, bumping into each other, screaming shouting – holy crap! It was Rock and Roll giving you an epileptic seizure. Diego instrument of choice I think sums up the band in two words – Fun Machine! All hail the Fun Machine! All hail Giant Princess!
The last band I saw was Time Machine Veterans (sorry I missed B L A C K I E) . Now mind you TMV started last week as a trio – Carlos (Young Mammals), Andrew (Wild Moccasins) and Jaime (Giant Princess) – but somehow by the end of the night it was, what 10 people? Insanity! As they were setting up (which took forever) I commented with my tongue in my cheek “How you say…clusterfuck?” But that was kind of the idea, pulling off a big huge clusterfuck kind of like the Mathletes used to do but with more chaos. Guess what? They pulled it off. Keeping the songs (well, more like riffs) simple, the band just shouted and bludgeoned its way through the morning to everyone cheering, dancing, hopping, and carrying various bodies overhead. It’s great to see all these indie bands jump together, throw caution to the wind, and create this supergroup (which seemed to have expanded to include members of Buxton, News On The March, Elaine Greer, etc.) whose sole purpose was to have fun. To me, Time Machine Veterans only strengthened April’s thesis – The new wave was here, has been here. Thanks Indie Houston for leading the charge.
more rocking soundtrack to George Lucas’ THX 1138
People are stoked!
I’ve got an Idea!
Let’s kill that momentum with a video shoot!”
covering Pavement on the space-time continuum.
…Giant Princess…too powerful!